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Populism and Allegory of the Wizard of Oz

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1 Populism and Allegory of the Wizard of Oz

2 What is Populism? Populism was a national movement associated with farmers. Being that most people in Kansas in the 1890s were farmers, Kansas played a significant role in the creation of the People’s Party. It was a successful 3rd party political movement It was created during a difficult economic times for farmers, who were frustrated with unequal wealth and corruption of industry, such as railroads during the Gilded Age. They wanted the government to end the corruption Founder James B. Weaver

3 Rise of Populism After the Civil War, farmers found it more and more difficult to make a good living. New technology of the industrial era created more advanced farm equipment. New equipment cut time and labor costs, which allowed them to plant more Unfortunately, it also meant that to do this farmers had to invest in expensive machinery. This put farmers into debt. It also meant that farmers produced more than the market needed, causing prices to fall

4 Rise of Populism continued
Droughts in the 1880s and 1890s made it impossible to grow crops If a farmer had a bad year and carried too much debt, he could lose his farm People were starving, had no fuel, and were facing foreclosure

5 Why were the Populists unhappy?
They wanted a fair price for the food they grew They felt that the United States’ economic policies favored industry over the farmer They were in debt, could loose their farm No rain and grasshoppers High interest rates on debt Frustrations with inequity of wealth Corruption of business (railroads/monopolies)

6 Price Indexes for Consumer & Farm Products: 1865-1913

7 The People’s Party Platform
The basic question behind the People’s Party was who should the government represent? The Workers or Big Business They felt that the government favored Big Business The farmers were particularly mad at the railroads They felt the railroads charged them unfair prices to transport their crops. Farmers were also mad at banks They felt the banks were charging them high interest rates

8 1892 The People’s Party demand reform!
Here are some of their ideas: Change the way the U.S. mints and distributes currency so that enough money is always available. Re-monitization of silver. Abolition of the National Bank. Break up monopolies and trusts so that prices are subject to competition. Create an income tax where rich people pay a higher percent of their earnings than poor people. Limit government revenue so that it does not exceed government spending. Give the government ownership of the railroads, telegraph, and telephone. Prevent land speculation and ownership of land by people who are not citizens of the U.S. and do not intend to live on the land. Reform elections through the use of the secret ballot, the election of U.S. senators by the people, a method by which the people can initiate laws, and the ability of the people to recall elected officials. 8-hour work day for government employees.

9 Govt.-Owned Companies

10 Platform of Lunacy

11 The Panic of 1893 Businesses vanished and went bankrupt
Over 16,000 disappeared Triggered a stock market crash Banks failed By 1895, unemployment reached 3 million People cried out to the government for help, but the government continued its laissez faire policies

12 Here Lies Prosperity

13 Coxey’s Army, 1894 Protest march by unemployed workers from the United States, led by the Populist Jacob Coxey. They marched on Washington D.C. in 1894, the second year of a four-year economic depression that was the worst in U.S. History to that time.

14 The 1896 Election

15 Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” Speech
You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns; you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold!

16 “A Giant Straddle”: Suggestion for a McKinley Political Poster

17 Why Did Bryan Lose? His focus on silver undermined efforts to build bridges to urban voters. He did not form alliances with other groups. McKinley’s campaign was well- organized and highly funded.

18 Gold Triumphs Over Silver
1900  Gold Standard Act confirmed the nation’s commitment to the gold standard. A victory for the forces of conservatism.

19 Heyday of Western Populism

20 Why Did Populism Decline?
The economy experienced rapid change. The era of small producers and farmers was fading away. Race divided the Populist Party, especially in the South. The Populists were not able to break existing party loyalties. Most of their agenda was co-opted by the Democratic Party.

21 The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

22 1964: Henry Littlefield’s “Thesis”?

23 What Are the Metaphors? Scarecrow: farmers, stereotyped as being brainless, but actually had a lot of good ideas. Tinman: Industrial Workers, rusted solid by rain storm (depression), loses limbs in book-like workers. Lion: William Jennings Bryan: Loud, reformer, speechmaker, with courage he could be “King” (president) Munchkins: The working class, victims/prey Wicked Witch of the West: Western Frontier Toto: Populist movement, reveals the corrupt Wizard, no collar means you can’t control the Populists Dorothy: crosses over from farm to Oz(The Gilded Age), voice of the people

24 What Are the Metaphors? Wicked Witch of the East: Industrial Establishment, factory owners and bankers, Killed by a house (Homestead Act) symbolizes the free land out west that attracted immigrants away from the factories. Glinda the Good Witch of the North: Alaska Gold Rush, the flood of gold solved the nation’s financial problems Wizard of Oz: President McKinley, very few people actually saw him Flying Monkeys: Pinkerton Guards, hired to put down up-risings, sent to control Coxey’s Army Dorothy and her 4 friends: Coxey’s Army, marching arm in arm to Washington DC to demand changes.

25 What Are the Metaphors? Castle Guards: National Guardsmen sent by President Grover Cleveland to break up Coxey’s Army-sent to stop them but really on their side. Auntie Em: corruption caused the nation to be “sick”, American was a Christian country that had lost sight of God. Yellow Brick Road: Currency based on the gold standard/filled with hazards Silver Slippers: Currency based on the silver standard/helped Dorothy get back home-back to the way it use to be Balloon: Theodore Roosevelt-full of hot air and out of control Emerald City: Washington D.C. –tainted green by money. “Get up at noon and start work at 1:00 an hour for lunch and then at 2:00 we’re done” (nothing gets accomplished in Washington) Tornado: The Panic of 1893 (financial panic) destroyed many farms Poppies: drug and alcohol abused lead to the downfall of society

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